It’s the Holiday Season: Time for More Job Cuts in Pharma

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

While the holiday season (beginning on Thanksgiving) is supposed to be joyous, it is usually the time of year that many life sciences and other large corporations announce job cuts. As expected, two companies, Mylan and Lilly announced today that they will be cutting the size of their work forces and laying off employee.

Mylan, whose CEO was forced to appear before Congressional committees because of the company’s egregiously high price it was charging for EpiPens, announced that it may lay off of as many as 3,500 workers. The reason for the layoffs was to “reduce redundancy” that resulted from Mylan’s $5.3 billion acquisition of Abbott Laboratories generic drug business, the $7 billion it paid to purchase the Swedish drugmaker Meda and the $1.0 billion for several topical skin medications from Renaissance Holdings. The layoffs will purportedly impact less than 10% of Mylan’s global workforce and help to cut costs and refocus operations at the generic drug manufacturer.

Likewise, troubled pharmaceutical manufacturer Lilly, whose CEO abruptly retired earlier this year announced that it was trimming its US pharmaceutical sales force. The announced cuts were related to the recent Phase 3 failure of the company’s Alzheimer’s project solanezumab. A company spokesperson did not disclose the number of sales representative who would lose their jobs.

Finally, this past September, the Danish company  Novo Nordisk, a world leader in the diabetes market, announced it would layoff 1,000 employees worldwide to cut costs and focus it efforts on developing “truly innovative” diabetes products.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, speculation suggests that the layoffs are in response to payer pressures that are being brought to bear in the US, the company’s largest market.  Many of the cuts are expected in R&D where innovation has been lacking according to company executives.

Although these jobs cuts are taking place, the good news is that these workforce reductions are smaller than those announced in holiday seasons past!

Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

 

Move Over China and India: Latin American Markets Are Sizzling

Posted in BioJobBuzz

While China and India have gotten the most attention as emerging pharmaceutical markets, Latin American markets most notably Mexico and Brazil (okay, it is a South American country but it can be included in Latin America) have been quietly expanding as rapidly as the Indian and Chinese markets. To wit, Denmark-based, Novo Nordisk—the world’s largest insulin maker—recently announced that it will be beefing up its medical consultant (aka sales reps) presence in Latin America over the next two to three years. During this period, the company expects to increase its current headcount of 300 to 800 employees.

Novo currently holds a 50 percent share of the Latin American insulin market. The company currently generates annual sales in Latin America of approximately $360 million. But, its main rivals Sanofi Aventis and Eli Lilly & Co, which sell faster-acting insulins, are beginning to cut into Novo’s market share.  The solution: add more sales reps in the region. While this may be great news for Latin American sales reps, it is not good news for American sales reps. Unless, of course, these reps speak Spanish and are willing to relocate!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

In Case You Haven't Been Paying Attention: The Indian and Chinese Life Sciences Markets Are Poised For Expansive Growth

Posted in BioBusiness

Over the past week or so there have been daily snippets on various media platforms about business deals and opportunities in the Indian and Chinese life sciences market. While it is not news that many life sciences companies are expanding operations into these markets, the growing frequency of news items about the “goings on” in both markets are noteworthy.

The first bit of news that started the Indian and Chinese life sciences news avalanche, was a note on May 29 that appeared on The Economic Times’ website that reported that New Delhi-based JB Chemical and Pharmaceuticals planned to double the size of its medical sales reps to 1,500 over the next two years to increase its penetration into rural Indian markets. The company had previously divested it over-the-counter consumer business in Russia and other Commonwealth Independent States (CIS; composed of countries from the former Soviet Union) to start up new divisions in gynecology and dental products.

The same day, another New Delhi-based drugmaker called Lupin that specializes in generic drugs, announced that it plans to launch 50 new products by FY12; twelve of which will be generic drugs launched in the US. Both bits of information suggest that new previously untapped commercial opportunities are rapidly beginning to emerge in India and that Indian drug makers are looking to compete in the US and Western European markets that were previously dominated by American, Western European and Japanese companies.

In other India-related pharmaceutical news, an article appeared on June 2 at the Online Pharma Times website that reported that Shlomo Yanai, CEO of the Israeli generic pharmaceutical giant Teva, had flown to India to discuss potential collaborations with pharmaceutical companies there. While most analysts do not think that an acquisition is likely—Teva agreed to buy US-based Cephalon in May for $6.8 billion and also paid $460 million to acquire a controlling stake in Japanese generics group Taiyo Pharmaceuticals—it signals a growing interest by foreign companies to do deals in India to establish a presence it that market.

Like the Indian market, the Chinese market is beginning to heat up. An article at Bloomberg.com published on June 1 reported that Novo Nordisk will boosts its investment in China to preserve its dominance in the diabetes market after rival Sanofi announced a new foray into the Chinese market.

According to a report issued last fall by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group, the Chinese diabetes market is expected to grow from $642 million in 2009 to more that $2.8 billion in 2015. The reason for the increase is attributed to the trend of more people moving from rural areas to cities and changes in eating habits and lifestyles that are contributing to a growing Chinese obesity problem. At present the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that roughly 8.3 percent of the U.S. population and 6.6 percent of the global population has diabetes

Novo first entered the Chinese market about 15 years ago and in 2002 created a diabetes research center and in 2007, in association with the Chinese Academy of Sciences established a foundation to fight diabetes. This year, the company plans on expanding its insulin packaging plant in China becoming the world’s largest insulin packaging facility.

Likewise, in 2005 Sanofi created a diabetes clinic. Three years later is expanded the clinics operations, established a clinical trial center and entered into a partnership with the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences to develop treatments for diabetes, cancer and neurological diseases.

On Jun 3, Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker (for now) announced that it plans to partner in a joint venture with China’s Zhejian Hisun Pharmaceutical Company to produce generic drugs for the emerging Chinese market. According to the post on Bloomberg.com

“Pfizer is looking for new sources of revenue before it loses U.S. patent protection in November for Lipitor, the cholesterol medication that was the world’s best-selling drug last year with $10.7 billion in sales. Off-patent medicines, including branded generics, are one of the fastest growing segments in the global pharmaceutical market, Pfizer and Hisun said in a joint press release.”

At present, Pfizer is the top drug company in China (by sales) followed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi according to information supplied by the prescription drug intelligence firm IMS. The size of the Chinese drug market is project to grow by 25 percent this year and rough 60% of the existing market is dominated by generic drugs.

Finally, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are also beginning to invest in the US market. Late last week, the Tianjin Tasly Pharmaceutical Group signed an agreement with the State of Maryland to invest $40 million to build a tradition Chinese medicine (TCM) facility to provide TCM training and information. According to a press release:

“Tasly Pharmaceutical is currently preparing materials for approval by America’s Food and Drug Administration and plans to sell compound danshen drip pills in US and European markets. The medicine’s primary ingredient is obtained from the salvia miltiorrhiza species and is used to treat cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Danshen is also known colloquially as red sage or Chinese sage.”

I think it is time to pay more attentions to the ebb and flow of the Indian and Chinese markets!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (try India and China)!!!!!!

 

@AstraZenecaUS Pushes the Pharmaceutical Social Media Envelope

Posted in Social Media

The life sciences industry is all a-Twitter (sorry) about social media and its implications for future business opportunities. Nevertheless, despite the obvious “upside” of social media, as is always the case in the pharmaceutical industry, most companies don’t want to be the first to do anything innovative or novel (go figure).  

Obviously, there are many risks associated with being first in anything. But, the aversion to being first in the industry to “rock the boat” is more pronounced in the pharmaceutical industry than in most others. That said, companies like Novo Nordisk (the first successful promotional product Twitter campaign), Johnson and Johnson ( the first company to blog) and Boehringer Ingelheim (using Twitter for conversational purposes not just a corporate news feed) at various times, dared to go where no company has gone before with the social media experiment. And, despite the apprehension and almost palpable trepidation exhibited by these companies, no overt consequences have resulted from the bold moves made by these social media pioneers. It now appears that there is another new benchmark for companies involved in the pharmaceutical social media experiment; the first ever sponsored pharma Twitter Chat held by @AstraZenecaUS.

This event was first reported (as far as I can tell) by Mark Senak, the author of the informative EyeonFDA blog and one of the leading pharmaceutical social media watchdogs. The Twitter Chat (under the hash tag #rxsave) was held by @AstraZeneca to discuss with its followers ways in which patients can save money on prescription drugs. While I didn’t participate in this somewhat paradoxical chat —a prescription drug companies discussing ways in which patients may save money on their expensive prescription drugs? —it does demonstrate willingness on AstraZeneca’s part to interact with prospective customers in a meaningful way to help them overcome financial barriers to access to potentially life- altering or-saving prescription drugs!

Although there are still no regulatory guidelines governing the use of social media by life sciences companies, the willingness of @AstraZenecaUS to put itself on the line is very refreshing. In my opinion, it is an important first step to help to “humanize” pharmaceutical companies. Also, it demonstrates a willingness by a pharmaceutical company to provide help to persons who perhaps cannot afford or are struggling to gain access to the prescription drugs that they need!

Hat tip and kudos to @AstraZenecaUS!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

 

Move over China and India: Big Pharma Is Eyeing Brazil

Posted in BioBusiness

Most major pharmaceutical companies left Brazil about 30 years ago. However, much has changed in the country over the past 30 years and most western pharmaceutical companies are rushing back into Brazil to expand their operations and make acquisitions. At the same time, many Brazilian drug makers are beginning to consolidate and spread abroad.

The exodus of multinational drug companies in the 1980s was prompted by high inflation, tough government-mandated price controls and the lack of strong intellectual property and patent laws. Over the past 20 years Brazil has become a leader in agricultural technologies and made substantial investments into biotechnology. Along with these gains, patent rules and regulatory rules for pharmaceuticals and generics have become much stricter; making Brazil much more attractive to most major pharmaceutical manufacturers as growth of established markets continues to slow and need to increase sales in developing markets is critical. At present, Brazil is the eight largest eighth-largest drug markets in the world by sales. Much of this growth has been spurred by the rapid growth of the middle class (remarkably without reimbursement from state or private health insurance).

Some of the drug makers that have already invested in Brazil include Novo Nordisk, Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer and Astra Zeneca. Novo Nordisk was an early entrant with its purchase in 2001 of Biobrás, a large insulin production plant outside São Paulo. Last year, Sanofi-Aventis acquired Medley, growing its portfolio of over-the-counter and branded products to complement its own offerings. Last month, Pfizer bought 40 per cent of Teuto, another generics business; other US, European and Japanese companies are continuing to study the Brazilian market closely.

While many western companies have gained a foothold in Brazil through M &A activity, others are attempting to develop their own internal presence.  Astra Zeneca, for example, is preparing for a launch of a series of both branded and generic products in the country.

In addition to the growing interest of multinational companies, some of Brazil’s domestic drug makers have been active. For example, Aché, a family-owned group and one of Brazil’s largest branded generics producers, has made smaller domestic acquisitions, and was considering buying Medley. The company has also begun forging alliances across Latin America, while its rival Eurofarma earlier this year bought Laboratorios Gautier in Uruguay, as the groups seek economies of scale in manufacturing and sales across the region. Even Farmaguinhos, the state-owned Brazilian drug company, has been collaborating with the African nation Mozambique.

Although the Brazilian government has made sizeable investments into research units such as the Butantan Institute in São Paulo and Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian drug industry is still in its infancy. The question is whether or not domestic drug makers will be able to meet demand before they are acquired by foreign companies interested in making inroads into Brazil’s burgeon drug market.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

FDA Guidance on the Use of Social Media May Not Be Complete Until 2012!

Posted in Social Media

Mark Senak, author of the EyeonFDA blog and a feisty social media advocate and enthusiast today reported that the long awaited FDA guidelines for the use of social media by life sciences companies might not be completed until 2012. 

Mark, who is attending the Food and Drug Law Institute Advertising and Promotion Conference being held in Washington, D.C. (#FDLIAP), based his timeline on remarks made by during presentations by a couple of FDA employees from the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC). According to Mark:

“A process begun in 2009 may see a milestone in 2010 with issuance of draft guidance, followed by commentary and revision and the issuance of a final of what will be much guidance, apparently.  A three year "event.”

Further, Mark offered this assessment:

“The Internet and social media landscape moves at the speed of light.  Consider that Twitter only came into existence three years ago.  The development of each new platform introduces new questions into the equation.  Consider the frequency and with what depth and breadth consumers consult the Internet and social media for health care information, and we have a priority that demands something faster than a three year event.”

While I agree with Mark that FDA should act faster to develop guidelines for the use of social media for promotional and non-promotional purposes, the existing guidelines for print and broadcast media are sufficient for companies (which abide by DDMAC regulations) to launch successful social media campaigns. A great example of this is Novo Nordisk’s novel Twitter campaign entitled “Race with Insulin” in which professional race car driver Charlie Kimball tweets about his use of Novo’s insulin products.  Novo contends that the campaign helps to dispel the notion that persons with type I diabetes are limited in what they can do personally and professionally (it also helps to sell more insulin!)

Some industry insiders and bloggers think that Novo’s Twitter campaign may be inappropriate and ill-advised. Like it or not, the Race with Insulin Twitter campaign is compliant with existing DDMAC regulations and no different than many other direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns that use paid company spokespersons. Personally, I think that criticism of the campaign is nothing more than “sour grapes,” i.e. Novo figured it out before other pharma marketers did!

The lack of FDA guidance on the use of social media will certainly hinder and perhaps deter other pharma companies from leveraging the true power of social media. However, the old adage “where there is a will, there is way” is particularly apt for those companies that are seriously considering social media in the absence of any notable regulatory guidance on the subject.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Advanced Learning Institute's "Social Media and Pharma Conference" Roundup

Posted in Social Media

Earlier this week, I attended Advanced Learning Institute’s (ALI) conference “Social Media and Pharma” that was held in Princeton, NJ. The conference was chaired and expertly moderated by Bill Evans, a Senior Vice President and Partner, Digital at Fleishman Hillard. Bill’s insights and command of the social media space were outstanding and helped to keep the conference moving forward and always on point (he also knows a lot about selling old iPhone on EBay—thanks Bill). 

All of the talks that I attended were outstanding and I have to say that the conference was one of the best organized and most focused conferences on the topic of social media and pharma that I attended to date! This is because Bill, a former technology turned business guy, organized the meeting around a conversational “how to” theme rather than allow presenters to talk about their cool Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blogs. Instead, he asked presenters to share with conference participants their ideas, strategies and experiences associated with implementation of their social media campaigns and programs. 

Two of my favorite presentations were delivered by pharma companies; Pfizer and Novo Nordisk. This was somewhat surprising because historically many pharma companies had to be reluctantly forced into the social media fracas.

The Pfizer presentation, “A Common Sense Approach for Integrating Social Media into Your Traditional Communications and Marketing Plans: A Roadmap for Success” was skillfully delivered by Paul Dyer from WCG (the agency that worked with Pfizer on its social media campaign) and Pfizer’s Kate Bird. Paul, who previously worked with social media in the consumer product industry, offered more facts and statistics that I ever knew existed for social media. With this as a backdrop, Kate went on to describe how Pfizer, a late entrant to the social media scene, leveraged this information to create one of the better social media campaigns launched to date by a pharmaceutical company.

The Novo Nordisk presentation, “How to Use Twitter to Deliver Measurable Results For Your Organization” was delivered by Lois Kotkoskie and Ambre Morley was a veritable road map on how to use Twitter to delivered branded messages about pharmaceutical products. For those of you who may not know, Novo Nordisk is the only company to date that has delivered a so-called “branded pharmaceutical tweet” in the Twitterverse. The now infamous tweet about Novo’s diabetes product Levemir s was delivered by race car driver and Novo spokesperson Charlie Kimball.

Despite this bold and unprecedented foray into branded pharmaceutical tweets, Novo hasn’t yet run afoul of regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) This is because Ambre, who is a marketing and PR professional, understood early on in the process, that in order to succeed and stay off of FDA’s radar, she would have to work closely her company’s regulatory affairs department. This is where Lois came in; she is a bona fide pharmaceutical regulatory affairs expert who in addition to her understanding of the arcane regulations guiding pharmaceutical advertising, has a well-developed sense of humor (frequently absent in pharmaceutical regulators) and is seemingly less risk-adverse than a majority of her peers.

It was easy to see that Ambre and Lois work very well together (sometimes I thought I was watching an Abbott and Costello comedy routine). Undoubtedly this is the likely reason why Novo’s diabetes-focused Twitter campaign was so well crafted, executed and in the end, successful. The take away lesson from the Novo experience is that pharma marketing and communication professionals interested in designing and implementing regulatory-compliant social media campaigns must include legal and regulatory representatives in the discussion.

Honorable mentions go to the presentations offered by Ken Rashbaum, Doug Levy and Peter Pitts who mainly talked about some of the legal, regulatory and privacy concerns voiced by pharmaceutical companies about the use of social media. An important issue that nobody at the meeting was prepared to discuss was the possible use of social media for pharmaceutical adverse event (AE) reporting. Generally speaking, conference participants were reticent to address this issue because most thought it would be difficult to have meaningful discussion in the absence of any regulatory guidance on this topic.

As many of you may know, the FDA held public hearings on the use of social media for various purposes in the life sciences industry late last fall. At present, it isn’t clear when the agency will issue that much anticipated guidance.

This past week’s “Social Media and Pharma” conference was the second event produced by ALI on this topic. Based on the attendance and enthusiastic response to the meeting, I suspect that ALI may be planning future events on social media and pharma. If this proves to be the case, then I highly recommend that you attend one or more of them!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!!!!!!

 

Another One Bites the Dust: Neose Technologies a Carbohydrate-Based Therapeutics Pioneer to Liquidate its Assets

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Back in 1993 when I was looking for an industrial job, I came across an ad for a research scientist at a Philadelphia-based biopharmaceutical company called Neose. Unlike most other biotechnology companies at the time, the company was focused on identifying and discovering drugs against carbohydrate-based targets—a novel idea at the time. Because I had spent the previous seven years working on carbohydrate biochemistry, I applied for the job and I was invited to interview for the position. At the time, Neose was a small, marginally-funded biotech company that was started in 1993 by a cell biologist from the University of Pennsylvania. 

I was very impressed with the company and thought that my background was consistent with the company’s long-term goals. Unfortunately, they never made me an offer and I went to work for one of Neose’s main competitors, a small, start-up company called Transcell Technologies. Plagued by poor management and a weak technology platform, Transcell Technologies was sold and liquidated in 1999.

Neose ultimately went public and had to reinvent itself several times over the past 14 years. At one point, it had developed a novel carbohydrate-based PEGylation technology for recombinant therapeutic proteins and monoclonal antibodies, which appeared to be gaining traction in the biogenerics market space. Unfortunately, it was “too little, too late” and like most other companies focused on carbohydrate drug discovery, Neose couldn’t sustain itself. Consequently, Neose recently inked separate deals with Novo Nordisk and BiogeneriX to liquidate most of its assets for cash deals worth only $43 million. Both companies had been collaborating separately with Neose on it clinical development programs.

Neose reported that it would retain certain intellectual property rights including those related to producing glycolipids. Like Pharmacopeia, another biopharmaceutical pioneer that recently sold its assets, Neose had a solid 15 year run—something that most biotechnology companies can only dream about!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

 

Some Good News for New Jersey: Novo Nordisk To Expand Operations

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk announced today that it will expand its New Jersey-based North American headquarters. This is welcome news for the state. New Jersey has lost about 10,300 jobs so far this year. And that comes after it added 3,700 jobs last year, its worst performance since 2003. 

I would say things can’t get much worse but …..

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!